Tony's Reflection 59 

 In the previous Reflection, I told you about Clive and Amanda Owen and the TV series Our Yorkshire Farm.

As a townie watching them in action, it’s surprising to see just how dependent sheep are on their shepherd.

Sheep certainly aren’t the brightest of farmyard animals. They wander off and get lost. They can’t fend for themselves if a predator comes. Left to their own devices, they struggle to find pasture. They can’t keep their own wool clean and free from parasites. If one of them wanders off the edge of the cliff (not beyond the realms of possibility, given their very low IQ) the rest will follow.

Last week, we left Jesus desperate to escape for some peace and quiet, yet once more pursued by the merciless crowd, full of needs and demands.

Did Jesus turn tail and run? It would have been understandable if he had. But no, he stayed put.

“These are sheep without a shepherd,” he had said. “How can I leave them?”

As Jesus looked on that crowd, who had, all uninvited, invaded his quiet space, he isn’t resentful. Mark tells us he is filled with compassion.

In fact, Mark uses a very strong Greek word for “filled with compassion”. Quite literally, it means “having a stirring in his bowels out of sheer emotion”. We can all identify what it means when we say a feeling is “gut wrenching”. That is how Jesus felt when he looked on this crowd and saw them as “sheep without a shepherd”.

Why did the sight of the crowd arouse such deep emotions? Because he realised how helpless and hopeless they were. How do sheep fare without a shepherd? Disastrously. We do little better, without Jesus.

That crowd, without Jesus wouldn’t know how to live. They wouldn’t find happiness, peace or inner confidence. They would be led astray by anyone with attractive ideas and a personality to match. If they had any ideas about God at all, they would be empty, or at best a mere shadow of the truth.

We are much the same if we live without Jesus “shepherding” us. The longer we go without his input, the more likely we are to lose our inner wholeness, to be led astray and to lose sight of God.

As we look at this story, we get a marvellous picture of the kind of shepherd Jesus was to that crowd. If you trust Jesus, you are part of his flock, too. He will look after you.

What do you think drew that crowd to go to all that trouble to seek out Jesus, in the first place?

Do you think they came because they wanted to see miracles? They ended up witnessing one of the most spectacular miracles ever, but healing doesn’t seem to have been on the agenda when they first arrived.

Mark makes no direct mention of healing or miracles. To start with, it was all about teaching. Mark tells us that Jesus saw they were like sheep without a shepherd, “so he began teaching them many things” (
verse 34).

There is no hint that the crowd grew restless. They weren’t saying, “Never mind the teaching, just give us a miracle…” They stayed late into the evening, enjoying his teaching, totally engrossed. This teaching was as supernatural as any miracle.

Jesus was shepherding them, by teaching them. Wouldn’t you like to know what he had to say that kept a crowd of at least 5000 so absorbed the whole day long, that they didn’t notice time passing or even think about going home for a bite to eat?

I would love to know… but Mark doesn’t tell us!

What we do know is that through his teaching, Jesus was being their shepherd.

Mark has already shown us Jesus’ teaching earlier in his biography.

He helped people see how God fitted into their day-to-day life. Not only that, but he showed them how their ordinary daily existence fitted into God’s big plans, his Kingdom agenda. It’s thrilling to know that Almighty God is part of your daily routine, but even better when you realise what you do, day in day out, is part of his Master Plan.

What you do matters so much to God that he is closely involved with it – amazing!

What you do matters so much because it has a place in the Creator’s purposes for his world. That’s astounding.

Jesus showed them how to find peace and confidence, as they realised how much God cared about them and how they had a part to play in his Kingdom.

They couldn’t get enough of the good news Jesus brought and taught.

Jesus is still teaching his “sheep”, today.

Where do you go to be shepherded and taught by him?

Jesus has set up today’s church leaders, to act as shepherds on his behalf. He has told them to teach his message faithfully, so that all of us can hear today the same absorbing, confidence-building, peace-giving message that he brought.

Are you being “shepherded” by Jesus, or are you more like the “sheep without a shepherd”?
signed Tony